“How to be a Poet” published this week

If you’ve ever wanted advice on “How to be a Poet”, there’s a book with precisely that title, by key UK poetry publisher Nine Arches press, published in a few days’ time (20th December 2017.)  It’s written by Jo Bell and Jane Commane – who are poets and editors in their own write (right).


The book is a sizeable 200 pages long, on sale for about £15 (depending whether you’ve buying in a real bookshop or an online retailer) and as well as Jo and Jane’s insights, includes articles by “special guests”.

How will this book help my writing?



7 reasons to write a poem a day in November

Just heard about this – minutes away from the 1st of November – a Poem-a-day challenge to write in response to a prompt – then make the best poems into a chapbook (poetry booklet) of 10-20 page before midnight 15th January.  Challenge by Writer’s Digest.


Why Take Part?

  1. Why not?  There is no entry fee, no requirement to even post that you intend to do this challenge.
  2. Because someone else is deciding on the prompts, you are very likely to find yourself writing about topics you don’t normally tackle.  Fresh ideas.
  3. The strength of the idea is in the increased practice in writing – it simply makes for sharper skills and more developed sense of smell for what works.
  4. it helps you find your own voice – you will be looking over a body of 30 poems – so easier to spot patterns and approaches.
  5. The person who sets the challenge has received notes from writers who took part, saying that they eventually printed some of the poems written in that November challenge – or that it formed the basis of a collection.
  6. It’s probably still easier than NaNoWriMo
  7. The thrill of the challenge.  Stepping into the unknown.


Full details of the challenge here.

Do you want to write a novel?

Headsup: November is the NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – a free programme which sets you a deadline to write a novel in a month.  November.  It’s based in America, but it is international.

Details here:

So if you have a half-written novel in a drawer somewhere, or a brilliant idea you haven’t got around to finishing – this might just be the incentive you need to advance it to first draft stage.

I thought I’d let you know first, so you could gather your material, give it a working title (one you can change later).

DIY Version

You don’t even have to signup with the organisation – you could just set aside in your mind that November will be the month you DO the writing.  It does help to have someone checking up on you – so you could maybe just organise for a friend to also spend that month writing something they want to do (doesn’t have to be a novel – it could be the next great recipe book or a travel journal from that fantastic holiday they went on, but haven’t yet written up.) Then you could compare wordcounts as you go.


Getting Poetry Published (2) Zines!

Zines – are informal, booklets of loosely themed photos or text (can be brief poetry) – pretty much hand printed, hand stapled, passed around.  Instead of waiting for a publisher to notice your brilliance as a poet, you can print small zines – ideally with your own or a friend’s photos or illustrations to add visual appeal.  Minimal office equipment and skills are needed.  If you’re reading this on a computer with an attached printer, you’re halfway there already.  By nature, zines tend to be less mainstream, more daring, and if you aim to write challenging poetry – this could be a great format to express yourself.  Just 5 pages stapled together gives you 10 pages in which to express yourself.  This suits zines, which are often about a small or simple theme, something which interests you for a few weeks, say.

And of course, something small and easy to slip in an envelope means they can become handy calling cards, samples of your poetic wares to give away.  Or make in bulk and use for handy gifts for thankyou, happy birthday, holiday greetings.  If you’re a creator and have a website listed on the zine, you can distribute your zines at will and know that an interested reader can find out more online.

Interested in making some?

Here are some videos to show examples of zines and easy ways to make them.

(I found this video inspiring because it literally shows the process and a collective is involved – lots of people with different styles.  In the collective one, it’s an art zine with pictures, but you can also see zines with writing and hear a writer publicly reading at a zine event).

This next video is simply a guy flicking through zines, lets you get an idea of various look and feels, various materials and styles.

Creative Prompts for August

Feel you want to write or draw something, but just not sure what to tackle, today?  Or want fresh warmup challenges?  Sketchbook Skool have given a challenge a day for August!

What do you mean – it’s a little bit late telling us this, August has started already?!  Do I hear dissension?  Verily, I raise a quizzical eyebrow.

But wait – let’s find the positive – you can start today and choose either the prompt for the 1st, 2nd or 3rd of August.  Oh look – the challenge against today’s date is “First” – so that takes you to the first anyway!!

Right: pencils sharpened, favourite writing pen aloft, knitting needles at stun-ningly gorgeous, or whatever creative tools you wish…… and GO!


The absurdity of writing/not writing poems

If writing a poem seems absurd – still, why not?  Perhaps it’s equally strange not to write? Our encouragement to write, today, is from Nobel poet, Wislawa Szymborska of Poland

I prefer to leave early.
I prefer talking to doctors about something else.
I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.
I prefer the absurdity of writing poems
to the absurdity of not writing poems.
I prefer, where love’s concerned, nonspecific anniversaries
that can be celebrated every day.

These few lines are taken from her poem, “Opportunities” – and a lovely example of her (more…)

Poet with L plates

Advice on beginning to write poetry by US Poet Laureate, Billy Collins.  (Video under 3 mins.)


Read other people’s poetry.  Read widely.  Read.  Read.  A lot.    ABout 10,000 hours worth, to get a sense of what has gone before.  As you read, you are naturally absorbing the technique and rhythms of poetry.  It’s like learning to play the cello – you don’t just get one and play brilliantly, you practice and do classes.

Your first writings will probably be for self-expression.  This is for yourself.  But if you want your work to be read and enjoyed by others – then you have that in mind as you write – “I am making something for someone else”.  There are 3 parts to a poem – line, sentence stanza (or verse).  You are trying to make all of them good.

The wastebasket is the writer’s best friend.  If a poem isn’t working, don’t force it, start another.

“If I’m writing for a while and I’m writing maybe a failure and another failure … a poem will come, often a little poem,” he said. “It has nothing to do with what I’ve written but it would not have occurred had I not been failing.”